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The Mystery of the Portal

A Guide to Rudolf Steiner’s First Mystery Drama

Trevor Dance
Contributions by Tom Raines
September 2022
More details
  • Publisher
    Rudolf Steiner Press
  • Published
    13th September 2022
  • ISBN 9781855845978
  • Language English
  • Pages 222 pp.
  • Size 6" x 9.25"

“Abstract thoughts deaden artistic fantasy. Becoming more and more logical, one takes to writing commentaries on works of art. This is a terrible product of a materialistic age: scholars write commentaries; learned descriptions of the art of Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo are coffins in which genuine artistic feeling, living art, lie buried. If one picks up a Faust or Hamlet commentary, it is like touching a corpse. Abstract thoughts have murdered the work of art.” — Rudolf Steiner

The philosopher and educationalist Rudolf Steiner was also a radical dramatist who wrote four lengthy and complex plays. The first of these, The Portal of Initiation, is rich in content and artistically presented, but leaves us with questions: Why is the first scene so long and many speeches so lengthy? Why are our usual expectations of drama not met? Was Steiner really a competent dramatist?

In this essential guide, Trevor Dance suggests that the first step to appreciating The Portal of Initiation is to understand Steiner’s methods. The play belongs to the tradition of Mystery Dramas from ancient times—artistic works intended as vehicles for inner development. Steiner thus combines aspects of Goethe’s alchemical fable The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily with the spiritual growth of contemporary individuals—all in the broader context of reincarnation and karma. With accessibility in mind, the author provides a clear synopsis of each scene and introduces us to the characters—a collection of rustics, sophisticates, hierophants and spiritual entities. Their dilemmas and challenges take place on many layers of reality: from a room in Sophia’s house to the exalted Sun Temple.

Revealing the enigmas behind the creation and content of The Portal of Initiation, Dance enables us not only to enjoy the play, but also to love it. His lucid guide—the first of its kind—is an ideal introduction for both individual readers and study groups.

C O N T E N T S:


A Portal to a Different Kind of Drama
The Scenes
The Characters

1. Goethe’s Fairytale, “The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily” (Tom Raines)
2. Mantras of Scene 3 and Scene 7 (English and German)


Trevor Dance

Trevor Dance has studied Anthroposophy for more than three decades and has led regular readings of Rudolf Steiner’s four mystery dramas at Rudolf Steiner House, London. He is a retired lecturer in adult education, where one of his finest achievements was turning GCSE students on to Shakespeare. An all-around lover of the arts, he has curated exhibitions, given talks, and led study groups, and is an exhibiting printmaker and member of the Printmakers’ Council. He is also the author of the monograph Rodolphe Bresdin: An Incorrigible Bohemian. Trevor has a BA and MA in English Literature from Loughborough and Lancaster universities.